Thursday, September 29, 2016

Chicago Skyline

Of the many notable things about Chicago, the innovative and experimental architecture is among the most intriguing. In the city where skyscrapers were invented, there are 1264 high-rises, with 44 that stand taller than 600 feet. To learn more about this unique conclave of modern construction, we took a guided architectural boat cruise down the Chicago River. Our tour guide was a Chicago native who studied architecture in school, and was quite passionate on the subject. He was able to provide us in-depth knowledge on the names of buildings, the architects who built them, the years they were built, interesting bits of trivia, and his own interpretation of what many of the structures conjured up in his own mind. He pointed out how the balconies on one building looked like hundreds of open filing cabinets; another set of two buildings that looked like corn cobs; one building shaped like a three dimensional clover towering skyward – if you looked at it from above. His observations were interesting, entertaining, and knowledgeable, and I came away with a deeper appreciation for these brilliant constructions from some of the most notable architects in the world.

At first there can appear to be a sameness to the structures, a sense of being overwhelmed with so many buildings all towering to the sky. But then, all of a sudden there appears a deep red building in a sea of mostly blue and white reflective glass; out pops the 40-story Loop Building with its own “You Are Here” map engraved up one side; there is the whimsical Aqua building that looks like it is covered with tiny waves or fins; and the not-very-tall, but very ornate, Water Works building. Every building has its own history, something unique and interesting to add to the overall landscape. Here are just a few pictures of the many we took during this highly recommended cruise. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago, Illinois)

The third day we were in Joliet we took the train into Chicago to catch the White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field (our 22nd ballpark!). Getting to the field was so easy using public transportation, with one of the stops directly across the street from the stadium. Not having any loyalty to the Chicago teams, and having more of a west coast persuasion in general, we were secretly rooting for the Seattle Mariners. But, this time the home team did win, with a final score of White Sox 4, Mariners 1. Still, it is always fun visiting each new ballpark, and learning a little about the teams. Here are some fun facts about the White Sox:

The Chicago White Sox franchise began in 1901 when the American League first began. The White Sox and the Detroit Tigers were the only American League teams to go through the entire 20th century without changing their team name.

How did the Chicago White Sox get their name? In 1990 Charles Comiskey moved the St. Paul Saints to the South Side of Chicago. The team adopted the former nickname of its future rivals (the Cubs) and became the White Stockings, which was shortened to White Sox a few years after the club joined the American League in 1901.

The White Sox have won three World Series titles, two in the early 1900s (1906, 1917) and the third 88 years later, in 2005. They are often referred to as the “South Siders,” a reference to their location in relation to Chicago's other major league team, the Cubs.

Here are some pictures from our visit to U.S. Cellular and the game. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City. Chi-City. Heart of America. My Kind of Town. These are just a few of the many nicknames for Chicago. Call it what you will (and over 2.7 million people call it “home”), there is none other like it.

Three hundred miles north of Cincinnati, this was our next stop as we continued our Midwestern tour of the country this summer. It seems the only news you hear about Chicago is the bad news. As the third largest city in the nation, murders are up 72% so far in 2016, and shootings surged more than 88% in the first three months of the year. While this disturbing trend is driven by gangs and mostly contained to a handful of pockets in the city’s South and West sides, these kinds of statistics are still troubling for tourists coming into the area. We chose to stay in an RV Park in Joliet, about 50-miles northwest of Chicago proper, and take the train into town for our visits. During visits to Boston, Washington D.C., and New York City, we have found the public transportation systems to be the best way to tour big cities, and this proved to be the case in Chicago as well.

Despite the dismal media depiction of this area, we found Chicago a wonderful, vibrant, and beautiful city, with some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met! Built on 28-miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, the city is famous for its bold architecture, a skyscraper skyline that can’t be beat (with some of the tallest buildings in the country), renowned museums, a hub for culture and the performing arts, and is a HUGE tourist mecca. In 2015 Chicago received over 52 million international and domestic visitors, a new record for the city, making it one of the top visited cities in the nation. If you want it, you’ll likely find it in this lively, energetic city in the American Heartland.

Our goal during our 10-day stay was to catch games with both major league baseball teams (the Cubs at Wrigley Field and the White Sox at U.S. Cellular); take one or more tours; get to a museum; and just use our own two feet to walk around the diverse and fascinating areas of the downtown. All this, we accomplished! In this post I am including pictures from our on-foot explorations; a hop-on-hop-off bus tour; our trip to the observation deck at the top of the Chicago 360 building (4th tallest building in Chicago, and 8th in the US); and a visit The Museum of Science and Industry.

(I will have separate posts for the two baseball games, and our Architectural Tour by boat on the Chicago River.)